Since 2009, a new business status has been available to someone who wish to establish a small business in France.
The status is called auto-entrepreneur, but now referred to as micro-entrepreneur.
Until 2015 the simplicity of the formalities of business creation for micro-entrepreneurs has been one of the guiding design principles of this business status.
All that was required was to go to the official government website and complete the on-line application form for inclusion on to the Registre National des Entreprises (RNE), the national business register.
Once completed (including copy passport) you would be given a business number and you could start your business. No fees and no fuss.
Since 2015 that process has been replaced by the need to register with one of three official trade centres, a process that requires greater effort and a cash payment.
The register and the registration centre (Centre de Formalités des Entreprises - CFE) depends on the nature of your activity, as follows:
|Artisan||Répertoire des Métiers (RM)||Chambre de Métiers et de l’Artisanat (CMA)|
|Commercial Sales||Registre du Commerce et des Sociétés (RCS)||Chambre du Commerce et de l'Industrie (CCI)|
|Agriculture||Registre du Commerce et des Sociétés (RCS)||Chambre d'agriculture|
|Sales Agent||Registre Spécial des Agents Commerciaux (RSAC)||Tribunal de Commerce (Greffe)|
Those in one of the professions libérales, affiliated to the Caisse Nationale d'Assurance Vieillesse des Professions Libérales (CIPAV), are not affected by this new requirement.
If you are to be in one of the professions libérales send your application to URSSAF, the social security collections agency, although many local Chambre de Commerce are able to assist.
All those setting up as an micro-entrepreneur in 2015 have already been obliged to undertake this 'immatriculation' process, but the requirement is retroactive and existing micro-entrepreneurs were given until 19th December 2015 to register with their CFE.
It has been introduced directly as a result of pressure from the building trades associations, who considered that there were not enough controls on the registration process for micro-entrepreneurs.
One of the key aspects of the new registration process is that it requires those engaged in a 'regulated' business activity provide proof of qualifications or relevant experience.
There are very many business activities of this nature, although in the vast majority of cases the entry requirements are not substantial.
You need to check with the business registration centre, or your trade/professional body just what, if anything, is required.
The registration process can be done by post or via the web, but in practice many will need to actually do it manually, with a visit to the local registration centre.
Indeed, although the quality of service does vary, there are good reasons to become acquainted with your business registration centre, as they may be able to offer you more general advice, so a visit is useful. In particular, they may be able to advise you on financial assistance that may be available for new business creation, such as grants, loans and tax relief.
Make sure you take with you passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, proof of address and copy qualifications and/or proof of experience.
Although in theory registration is free of charge, a number of the centres impose a fee for assistance with the formalities. The Greffe do impose an obligatory token charge.
If you happen to be registering as a trade activity you will also be required to attend a training course lasting 30 hours on running a business, organised by the chambre, which will cost around €200+.
However, it is not too difficult to obtain exemption from this course if you can provide evidence of at least three years business experience in a the trade activity, or a relevant qualification.
Thus, Article 2 of Loi no 82-1091 23 décembre 1982 Relative a la formation professionelle des artisans states:
Pour s'établir en France, un professionnel qualifié ressortissant d'un Etat membre de la Communauté européenne ou d'un autre Etat partie à l'accord sur l'Espace économique européen est dispensé de suivre le stage prévu au premier alinéa. Un décret en Conseil d'Etat définit les conditions dans lesquelles, si l'examen des qualifications professionnelles attestées par le professionnel fait apparaître des différences substantielles au regard des qualifications requises pour la direction d'une entreprise artisanale, l'autorité compétente peut exiger que le demandeur se soumette à une épreuve d'aptitude ou un stage d'adaptation, à son choix.
Not all chambres make it clear that this right of exemption exists, as they prefer the fee they obtain for training, so you may need to spell out to them the relevant law.
All micro-entrepreneurs are required to pay a charge towards the running costs of the registration centres, called the taxe pour frais de chambre.
In fairness, the level of the contribution is not large and it is outlined in our following pages on the tax regime applicable to micro-entrepreneurs.
The contributions are payable on a monthly or quarterly basis, alongside payment of the cotisations sociales.
If you are registered as an micro-entrepreneur you cannot separately register another business activity using this status due to an existing registration.
Indeed, you would have no reason to do so, for it is quite in order to carry out a subsidiary activity (activité complémentaire) without prejudice to the legal and fiscal status of the main business.
A micro-entrepreneur is quite entitled to run several different businesses under a single registration.
If the two activities are distinct, to the extent that there are different rates of social security contributions that are payable, these are identified and paid separately, unless in one case the activity is an incidental extension of the main business, in which case a single rate of contribution is paid.
In both cases, the turnover limits for a micro-entrepreneur must be respected, and here the rule that applies depends on the nature of the business activities being pursued:
So, for example, if one of the activities is 'commercial' in nature then a turnover limit of €82,200 will apply for that activity; if the other business is 'artisanal' by nature, then it will have a turnover limit of €32,900. If both fall into the same business category, then only one limit applies. You cannot go above the turnover threshold of the main business.
If over time the complementary business becomes larger than the original business you merely need to change the basis of your registration with the business registration authorities.
If you seek assistance in the registration process you can contact us at email@example.com and we shall endeavour to help.